With my new plans to not keep my writing life and my teaching life separate, I set out last week to get a blog plan together. I wanted to post enough to keep you all coming back and not so much that I felt overwhelmed with all of the other things that I have going on. The schedule now has both fiction, book reviews, and some of the things happening in the classroom. Wednesdays will be all about education.
If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you how stressed out I get about Parent/Teacher conferences. It’s kind of ridiculous how overwhelmed and under-prepared I start feeling. Both Monday and Tuesday night, my co-facilitator and I sat at our desks with very few moments to spare, talking to parents one on one and discussing their child’s success as well as their child’s individual opportunities for growth. Because of all of the snow days, we’re behind academically. Our project that was supposed to wrap up last week is ending today, so we didn’t have a single grade in the gradebook (and that’s because of a new evaluation system that we are trying that doesn’t encourage learners to get points but to learn. That’s another post for another time).
One of the learning outcomes for the New Tech Network of schools is Agency. Agency is a new term in the world of education, but like most of the facilitators at my school, I feel like it is just one of the really important skills for learners. Agency is a learner’s drive to learn. It is a way for facilitators to “help students see effort and practice in a new light and associate both as growth paths and, ultimately, success” (‘Agency’ — A Noun That Translates Into Success). With our Agency rubric in hand, we were able to help parents see exactly where their learners are living on the work ethic scale and to give them advice about how to push them farther, because let’s face it, left to their own devices most ninth graders wouldn’t do much at all.
Although I was feeling quite a bit of stress about Parent/Teacher conferences, both days I left feeling invigorated. This could have had an effect on it, but I did have one group of learners working the entire time we were conferencing on their project so that they would be ready for presentation day. That showed a lot of agency, especially considering there was nothing done when class was over earlier during the day. Parents were very encouraging when looking at the new grading system, I was able to learn a little bit more about a few learners, and I was really surprised by the number of parents that I saw that seemed really excited about all the things that his or her child was learning.
I have said it before and I will continue to say it, New Tech is the place to be. Not only are we covering the content, but we are also teaching valuable life skills. The learners that embrace agency are going to be successful. Even though we only had one rubric complete, showing parents the agency rubric gave them an accurate picture not necessarily of what their child was capable of, but of what their child was providing evidence of. This was a huge difference for me. Engagement and growth instead of grades never had a significant role in my teaching until this year.